Arms Control Wonk
The nuclear weapons, arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation podcast. Companion to the popular Arms Control Wonk blog (www.armscontrolwonk.com)
info_outline Glide or Die 10/07/2021
Glide or Die Glide or die, baby. The North Koreans, on a real cavalcade of missile debuts reminiscent of 2017, have tested what they claim to be a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). Which means they are just checking off their list of goals, leaving a nuclear powered submarine, a MIRV, and a solid propellant ICBM as the main untested-but-announced capabilities.... While it isn't 100% clear that they actually tested an HGV, the team dissects what it might have been, if a DPRK HGV is realistic, and why HGVs and other missile-defense-defeating technologies fit the DPRK's national strategy perfectly. Oh, and FOBS makes an appearance, almost entirely to give Scott nightmares. Support us over at !
info_outline All Aboard the Missile Train 09/18/2021
All Aboard the Missile Train Put another pot of coffee on because it is launch week again. North Korean launched two missiles off of the back of a train this week, right as the president of South Korea watched their own tests of a submarine launched ballistic missile, stealthy air launched cruise missile, ballistic missile test, supersonic anti ship cruise missile test, large diameter solid motor test, and good lord it is a hard week to keep up. Oh right and North Korea is expanding its uranium enrichment facilities. One day we'll catch up to AUKUS. Jeffrey and Scott try to keep up and parse through everything that is happening, from why trains are a strategically sensical choice for North Korean missile basing to why the South Korean conventional SLBM makes us very, very nervous. Recent Episodes of Note: North Korea's recent long-range strategic land-attack cruise missile test: North Korea's plutonium reprocessing campaign: Support us over at !
info_outline Not Lackin' LACMs 09/15/2021
Not Lackin' LACMs The DPRK tested a cruise missile, but this time it was a big one. Like "INF Treaty" big, if that term still meant anything. The DPRK announced that it launched a 1500 km range cruise missile, after months of hints that a strategic nuclear-capable cruise missile was in the works. While it technically does not fall under the United Nations Security Council resolutions sanctioning DPRK ballistic missile and space tests, it is a huge concern, especially since it is probably meant to carry a nuclear payload one day. Jeffrey and Aaron talk about the tech, cruise missile proliferation, how the DPRK has been signaling this capability for a while, and why this is a very serious capability that needs to be addressed. And, of course, they make fun of the JLENS. Support us over at !
info_outline Boiling Fish at Yongbyon 09/09/2021
Boiling Fish at Yongbyon Looks like Yongbyon is running a little hot. The IAEA has announced that it believes the DPRK is conducting a plutonium reprocessing campaign at Yongbyon. Jeffrey and Aaron discuss why the DPRK would want to do this. What could the mystery be? Why would the DPRK reprocess plutonium? For nukes. It's for nukes. Basically like the DPRK has been saying. Support us over at !
info_outline It's Always Cloudy in Novaya Zemlya 09/03/2021
It's Always Cloudy in Novaya Zemlya Jeffrey and his team fear no cloud. Working with Capella Space to acquire cloud-piercing synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data, the MIIS team has been monitoring eternally-cloudy Novaya Zemlya, Russia, for evidence of Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile tests. Evidence pointed to the Burevestnik test site being revived after the previous failures, and the team started utilizing radar returns to obviate the satellite-imagery-frustrating weather that plagues Russia's northern nuclear test ranges. Jeffrey and Aaron discuss remote sensing technical education, and the value of teaching practical imagery interpretation, technical processing skills, and how to evaluate imagery at a non-technical level. Previous Episodes: Links of Note: . Support us over at !
info_outline Wasted Opportunities with the JCPOA 08/27/2021
Wasted Opportunities with the JCPOA Bad news abounds for Iranian and US returns to JCPOA compliance. Aaron and Jeffrey talk through the frustration around breakout time requirements, the timidity of the Biden administration, and the shortfalls of the wait-and-see approach. Links of Note: The Economist article on OSINT, including Arms Control Wonk and the Slack channel, which is filled with only the most brilliant and beautiful of people, whom all listeners should aspire to emulate: https://www.economist.com/briefing/2021/08/07/open-source-intelligence-challenges-state-monopolies-on-information Support us over at !
info_outline A SECOND SILO FIELD 08/13/2021
A SECOND SILO FIELD Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen with the Federation of American Scientists have tracked down what appears to be a near Hami, Xinjiang. Aaron, Jeffrey, and Scott gather up to discuss the rapidly increasing number of missile silos, what this means for the shell game theory, how many missiles and warheads could be in the PLARF's ICBM arsenal, and how China strategically responds to U.S. ballistic missile defenses. Links of Note: Our first episode on the first field of silos: Support us over at !
info_outline I Sing of Arms and the Man 07/28/2021
I Sing of Arms and the Man American weapons systems need better names. Tom Karako, Director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joins Jeffrey to talk about just what it is that inspires soldiers: Legendary, heroic, and historical names, not descriptive acronyms and jargon. What, are ALCM and JASSM not as sexy as Hades or Pluton? Tom explains his philosophical and classical background, and the inspiration for his article in about giving U.S. weapons systems respectable names more befitting of their purpose. Support us over at !
info_outline Nuclear Silos in the Chinese Desert 06/30/2021
Nuclear Silos in the Chinese Desert Decker Eveleth and Jeffrey Lewis's team at CNS out in the deserts of China. That's the largest expansion of PRC silos in history, by far, but it isn't totally clear what is going on, and whether each of these Bouncy Castles of Death represents a new missile or if there are some decoys in the mix... Aaron and Jeffrey discuss how Decker found these silos out in the middle of the desert, whether each silo has its own missile or if this is a Shell Game with empty silos and decoys, and how this is going to impact arms control incentives in the very near future. Further Reading: Jeffrey's op-ed in Foreign Policy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/06/30/china-nuclear-weapons-silos-arms-control/ Catherine Dill's article on new test silos at Wuzhai: https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1205826/open-silos/ Decker Eveleth and Scott LaFoy's article on possible silos at Sundian: Hans Kristensen's articles on DF-41 training silos at Jilantai, which constituted the foundational discovery of DF-41 silos in open source research: Support us over at !
info_outline The Space Launch Simorgh-asbord 06/24/2021
The Space Launch Simorgh-asbord Jeffrey's team is at it again. This time, they (and Jonathan McDowell!) caught an unannounced (and failed) Iranian space launch attempt and have now caught what appears to be a second unannounced (and failed) Iranian space launch attempt. The failed launch detection was covered by We're still waiting to hear about that second one though... Jeffrey and Scott walk through Iran's textbook space launch preparations, how Jeffrey's team tracked the preparation and launch, and how one assesses that a rocket flight failed in absence of a big, obvious explosion. Support us over at ! Please note that any views expressed on the Arms Control Wonk Podcast are the views of individual hosts, and do not represent the views of hosts' respective employers.
info_outline The Relevance of the Nuclear Posture Review 06/23/2021
The Relevance of the Nuclear Posture Review Is the Nuclear Posture Review something worth doing, or a massive waste of time and political capital? Jeffrey and Aaron vote "waste." The NPR takes up a ton of time, leaves policy on autopilot during its duration, and burns a ton of bandwidth that could be used for actual reflection and policy change. But what is more valuable? No Review at all? An Integrated Deterrence Review? The team walks through the pitfalls of the NPR, propose some modest alternatives, and outline a possible alternative mission for the Missile Defense Agency.... Support us over at !
info_outline Hyperbolic Hyper Hype 05/29/2021
Hyperbolic Hyper Hype The hype is real. Maybe it's a branding thing, maybe people forget ballistic missiles are a thing, maybe nobody thinks "glider force" sounds cool. But whatever the reason, people keep calling hypersonic glide vehicles fast compared to existing missile systems. Jeffrey and Aaron discuss hypersonic weapons, what people keep getting wrong about them, and why the D5 missile is so dang cool. Support us over at !
info_outline Israeli Rocket Motor Test 05/06/2021
Israeli Rocket Motor Test On April 20, an posted a video of a large smoky cloud to his Twitter account with the comment “A mysterious explosion in northern Israel.” Jeffrey and his team tracked down the "mysterious explosion," identifying it as a solid rocket motor test for an unknown missile or space system. Aaron and Jeffrey walk through the team's methodology, how they found the site, how they identified that it was a rocket motor, and how CNS's knowledgebase of missile industrial facilities assists in rapidly disproving disinformation. https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1211676/israeli-rocket-motor-test/ Support us over at !
info_outline A Tale of Two Launches 04/01/2021
A Tale of Two Launches North Korea has been active the past few weeks, launching a set of cruise missiles (probably just coastal defense systems) and a separate set of ballistic missiles (which look like stretched KN23 short-range ballistic missiles) a few days later. But these events were received very differently by the Biden administration and analysts. Jeffrey, Aaron, and Scott discuss why these events were received so differently, what the deal is with North Korea's newest short-range ballistic missile system, and what the Biden administration may be getting itself into with its denuclearization policy. Support us over at ! Please note that any views expressed on the Arms Control Wonk Podcast are the views of individual hosts, and do not represent the views of hosts' respective employers.
info_outline Making the Easy Stuff Hard: Re-joining the JCPOA 03/11/2021
Making the Easy Stuff Hard: Re-joining the JCPOA Biden campaigned on rejoining the JCPOA, but some of that enthusiasm has dried up since he took office. Aaron and Jeffrey debate what's going on, strategies for negotiating re-joining the JCPOA, and the fallacy of letting the perfect get in the way of the good as people begin to advocate for "waiting for a better deal" again. Also, it is a good time to start listening to Season Two of The Deal, available at IranDealPodcast.com and . Support us over at !
info_outline New START and the Future of Arms Control 02/26/2021
New START and the Future of Arms Control President Biden has extended for five more years. But what are we going to do with those years? How to we actually advance stability? Aaron and Jeffrey talk about the steps necessary to secure stable, effective arms control treaties, the history of arms control, and the importance of tacking missile defenses alongside offensive systems. Support us over at !
info_outline Iran's New Space Launcher: Zoljanah 02/18/2021
Iran's New Space Launcher: Zoljanah Iran unveiled a new (mostly) solid-propellant space launcher, the Zoljanah! But it looks....different than the other space launchers. Besides having a new fuel type, the Zoljanah may not have many IRGC or military fingerprints on it, indicating that the Iranian solid-propellant programs are robust and expansive. Jeffrey and Aaron talk Iranian space programs, civilian vs. military control of research programs, and, of course, why a solid-propellant launcher makes a difference. Support us over at !
info_outline Unravelling the Israeli Ballistic Missile Program 02/05/2021
Unravelling the Israeli Ballistic Missile Program Israel maintains a technologically advanced but understudied ballistic missile arsenal. Jeffrey and Aaron dive into the French, South African, and American influences on the arsenal, how to model the Jericho missile families, and the history of the Israeli ballistic missile program. Support us over at !
info_outline North Korea's Next Nukes 01/25/2021
North Korea's Next Nukes North Korea put on *another* parade, during the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea. Kim Jong Un dropped some fascinating details about what the DPRK has allegedly completed, and what they may be working on, including a possible nuclear submarine and intermediate-range cruise missile. Then, he paraded some new missile hardware, including a new solid-fuel SLBM and some new short range systems. And, to top it off, Jeffrey and Dave Schmerler found that the has been moved for a possible refurb, meaning SLBM tests may be possible in the near future. Jeffrey and Scott try to parse out what the North Koreans have built, what they showed us at the parade, and what is to come this year. For our episode on the gigantic new as-of-yet-unnamed ICBM (nicknamed the Hwasong-16 or the Hwasong-X), click . For our episode on the October 2020 Military Parade in North Korea, click . Support us over at ! Please note that any views expressed on the Arms Control Wonk Podcast are the views of individual hosts, and do not represent the views of hosts' respective employers.
info_outline Fancy Ass SWERVE 01/12/2021
Fancy Ass SWERVE But just what the heck did the DOD actually test? Jeffrey and team turn their analytic methods towards figuring out exactly what this strange, Frankenmissile was, and the open-source research lessons that can be gleaned from academic papers and unclassified laboratory newsletters. And yes, we know it is actually Frankenstein's Missile, Frankenstein was actually the prime contractor. Support us over at !
info_outline The Donald and The Nuclear 7: Parting Shots 01/08/2021
The Donald and The Nuclear 7: Parting Shots Nancy Pelosi has indicated that Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has assured her that there are safeguards against an "unstable president" accessing "the launch codes" and launching a nuclear strike. Jeffrey and Aaron discuss why that is wrong (and/or illegal), what the actual launch process is, and what the political strategy behind Nancy Pelosi's message may be. Previous Entries in The Donald and The Nuclear series on executive power and nuclear weapons: Support us over at !
info_outline North Korea's Biggest ICBM Yet 01/06/2021
North Korea's Biggest ICBM Yet Jeffrey and crew have been busy at work modelling the giant ICBM that the DPRK paraded in October 2020, as well as tracing out its possible industrial provenance. Aaron and Jeffrey talk through modelling methodologies, North Korean industrial espionage, and how to build robust public policies to account for uncertainty. For our episode on the October 2020 Military Parade in North Korea, click . Support us over at !
info_outline New Year, New START, New Facilities in Iran 12/29/2020
New Year, New START, New Facilities in Iran At the end of this awful year, Jeffrey and Aaron talk about the future of arms control, the future of analytics, and the future of the pod. 2021 will have a lot going on: New START expiration or extension, new facilities in Iran, figuring out what the heck the North Koreans are doing, what's going on with anti-satellite missiles, and more. Head over to the Arms Control Wonk slack channel to voice your opinion on what topics we should prioritize, because we have a lot of them and not everything's getting covered! Support us over at !
info_outline Dennis Gormley 12/02/2020
Dennis Gormley Jeffrey and Aaron share stories about the life of Dennis Gormley, renowned proliferation scholar and celebrated professor. Dennis's work on cruise missile proliferation, tacit knowledge, and industrial expertise was foundational to the field of proliferation studies, and he was a caring, dedicated educator. Dennis was a good friend and mentor, and is greatly missed.
info_outline The 2020 North Korean Military Parade 10/22/2020
The 2020 North Korean Military Parade On 10/10/2020, the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the Worker's Party of Korea, the DPRK showed of a lot of missiles. Again. In addition to all the stuff they've been testing over the last two years, they introduced a new, oddly shaped solid-propellent missile, the Pukguksong-4, and what appears to be the largest TEL-based liquid propellant ICBM in history. Kim Jong Un gave the clearest declaration of DPRK nuclear policy to date. Jeffrey, Anne, and Scott sit down for Anne's last official episode and talk about what we saw, what that it means for North Korea's nuclear posture, and what the DPRK's nuclear policy and strategy actually is. Support us over at !
info_outline Saving the World with Datayo 10/09/2020
Saving the World with Datayo , director of and Deputy Director of the , joins Jeffrey and Scott to talk about Datayo, a project aimed at reducing nuclear risks and fostering a transparent, collaborative, and high-quality analytic information environment. Scott fawns over Datayo's video annotation capabilities for military hardware tracking, and Melissa talks about how much bandwidth Jeffrey's satellite imagery habits actually eat up. Everybody competes to correctly do the podcast's outro. Go check out Support us over at !
info_outline The Deal 10/09/2020
The Deal Now that a few episodes have dropped, Anne and Jeffrey talk about Jeffrey's new project, The Deal. Jeffrey chronicles how researchers like Corey Hinderstein chased down data before satellite imagery was so easily available, Wendy Sherman's incredible memory for names, and just how many BBs Jeffrey has in his car. The Deal tells the story of the Iran nuclear deal: how it came together, how it fell apart, and what that means for the rest of us. Hosted by Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. He tweets Learn more at and listen in at Apple Podcasts.
info_outline At The Brink 09/29/2020
At The Brink How do we step back from the brink and reduce the very real threat that nuclear weapons continue to pose? Nuclear weapons continue to impact people's lives, even if they are sometimes treated as historical threats of a prior era. Jeffrey and Aaron sit down with and Dr. , 19th Secretary of Defense, to discuss their work conducting interviews with and chronicling the personal stories of presidents, cabinet members, congressmen, nuclear physicists, atomic bomb survivors, military officials, and activists in their podcast, At the Brink, and through the William J. Perry Project. They've pulled together incredible personal stories and interviews with individuals involved in the negotiations of the Iran Deal, the exfiltration of bomb-grade uranium from Kazakhstan, and the implementation of the Nunn-Lugar program that reduce former Soviet nuclear stockpiles by over 4,000 devices. And, of course, a , featuring one Dr. Jeffrey Lewis. Links of Note: , and its parent project, the ,
info_outline The Deal Episode 1: The Revelation 09/08/2020
The Deal Episode 1: The Revelation In 2002, Corey Hinderstein, a young research analyst, follows a hunch after a routine press conference in Washington, D.C. The results of her scavenger hunt sparked a diplomatic crisis that stretched more than a decade, lasted through two presidencies, and ended with a deal that, depending on whom you ask, either “makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure” or is “a horrible deal that should never, ever have been made.” The Deal tells the story of the Iran nuclear deal: how it came together, how it fell apart, and what that means for the rest of us. Hosted by Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. He tweets @armscontrolwonk. Learn more at IranDealPodcast.com and listen in at .
info_outline The Deal: Promo 09/07/2020
The Deal: Promo The Deal: The story of the Iran nuclear deal; how it came together, how it fell apart, and what that means for the rest of us. Hosted by Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. You can find The Deal on or your preferred podcast platform.